The opening weekend of the 2021 Six Nations Championship was always going to be greeted with anticipation and excitement, as fans began to ponder which team will ultimately reign supreme.
Now the most famous of annual rugby union competitions is underway, giving us a first look at the potential of each team, we also have an early opportunity to evaluate the contenders.
Although they stunned England in the opening fixture last year, France ended up second in the table following a surprising defeat against Scotland. This time around, a more experienced and established Gallic side is widely tipped for success.
Having utterly demolished Italy in Rome by 10-50 to open their account, the latest Six Nations odds from Paddy Power place France as the firm 11/10 favorites. They are also priced at 3/1 odds to win the Grand Slam, although remaining unbeaten will be a difficult challenge.
The last time Italy won a game at the Six Nations was in 2015, when, surprisingly, they humbled Scotland 19-22 at Murrayfield. That was also the last year the Italians managed to avoid claiming the wooden spoon, as a team which habitually finishes bottom of the table.
Torn apart by France in the opening 2021 fixture, it will surprise nobody to see Italy priced at 500/1 to win the Six Nations, with the odds reflecting such a feat as being practically impossible. Still, there’s always the chance of a shock win, so keep an eye on the individual match odds.
Winners of the final Five Nations Championship in 1999, Scotland have never won the Six Nations Championship since it commenced in 2000. In fact, they have actually landed the wooden spoon on four occasions, yet there does appear to be hope at last.
For the first time since 1983, Scotland claimed victory at Twickenham by beating England 6-11 in their opening 2021 Six Nations fixture. Now priced at 9/1 for the championship, this suggests bookies remain cautious, uncertain of whether this triumph heralds a new dawn for the Scots.
As the reigning 2020 Six Nations Championship winners, despite losing their opening fixture against France last year, England had the last laugh by topping the table on points difference. Filled with confidence, they were firm favorites ahead of the opening fixtures.
Nevertheless, after falling to the Scots at Twickenham and producing a feeble display of rugby, England’s odds have slipped to 4/1 for the Six Nations Championship. Unless they can bounce back with much improved performances, English hopes, and odds, could continue to slide.
The last team to complete a Grand Slam of victories at the Six Nations Championship in 2019, which they have achieved more times than any other team since 2000, Wales can’t be underestimated.
Despite beating Ireland in their opening fixture, Wales are still considered 6/1 outsiders for the Six Nations, 11/2 for the Triple Crown, and 12/1 for another Grand Slam. That’s not bad value, considering this powerful Welsh side is packed with potential for success.
2018 was a fantastic year for Ireland at the Six Nations Championship, as the team defeated every opponent for the Grand Slam. It would also prove the last of three Six Nations Championship triumphs masterminded by head coach Joe Schmidt with the Irish team.
Andy Farrell took the helm in 2019 and since then, Ireland have struggled to reach the same heights. Losing 21-16 to Wales was hardly the best of starts for this Irish team, which is reflected by their 13/2 odds to win the Six Nations.
Taking the opportunity to evaluate the contenders for the most prominent rugby union competition can be useful in setting expectations as fans begin to wonder who will come out on top. But let’s not forget, there are have been some surprising results in the past and this year could be no different. It’s all to play for, and therein lies the excitement of the Six Nations.